Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gareth Davis and Steven R. Smith

Westering and The Line Across are two albums of scorched explorations for guitar and clarinet, courtesy of Gareth Davis and Steven R. Smith and released only in limited edition vinyl form. Davis's clarinet is a mournful, dissonant force, while Smith's guitar shifts from smokey Americana to sweeping harmonic drone and back again. With their deep, evocative, and gorgeously textured soundscapes, these albums would make the perfect score to some desolate surrealist Western.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nest - Retold and Body Pilot

Nest is the musical project of Deaf Center's Otto Totland and Serein's Huw Roberts.

Body Pilot begins with "Stillness." Built on a foundation of shimmering, sustained strings, a mournful piano traverses this frosty soundscape, solemn and deeply meditative. "The Dying Roar" is treated strings and horns melding and shifting into a undulating thrum, Totland's piano returning around the 2/3rd mark to usher the piece into silence. "Koretz's Meteor" is awash in a deep droning hum, with scattering, shuffling, almost percussive tones sounding from far beneath accompanied by field recordings of what seem to be camera shutters and distant voices. Body Pilot closes with "The Ultimate Horizon," a beautiful piece of frosty drifting textures, distant and melancholy, pulsing as the overlapping sounds modulate in speed and a static pulse beats. At only four tracks and around 20 minutes, Body Pilot is stunning but altogether too brief.

Thankfully, Retold is more of a proper album, with eleven tracks running around 55 minutes. Retold finds the duo exploring a broader sonic range. "Lodge," the opening track, features Totland's plaintive piano over a quietly shifting sea of sonic echo, violin, human breath, and what sounds like rainfall. It's clearly a meticulously constructed piece but never laborious or stuffy. "Marefjellete" is propelled forward by an almost dubby, plucked bass note, static creak, rustling wind, metallic pings, and a slowly whirling, almost whimsical piano. "Whetstone" is a gorgeous bit of modernist chamber music, with piano, cello, viola, and sustained horns layered over an alien soundscape that slowly but surely builds into an echoing expanse before fading into rainfall and and hushed static. And so on.

Deeply atmospheric, both albums here are a successful blending of the neo-classical with the ambient and drone, in a way that will speaks to fans of Jacaszek, Deaf Center, Tim Hecker, Stars of the Lid and the like. Highly recommended stuff.